The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson

Here’s my favorite part of the video:




What’s the subtle art of not giving a f*ck? It’s exactly as Mark Manson states, not giving a f*ck. Mark Manson, American self-help author, blogger and entrepreneur where he attracts well over 2 million viewers per month to his website, opens the book by saying that you’re consistently being sold to by others to care about how you look, what to buy, where you should go on vacation and etc. While you should care about these things to some degree, you shouldn’t get caught up with trying to please others or consistently think about how others perceive you. By not caring so much, you’ll start living life on your own terms rather than the terms of others. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. It’s a fact of life that we’re all going to die one day. It may not be any time soon but death will for sure come one day. The sooner one realizes and internalizes this, the sooner one will act upon his/her truest and deepest desires to squeeze the most out of life. Having said that, I believe that too many people squander their time by caring too much about what others think about them. Quit wasting your time on trying to impress others and start living your own life on your own terms. “Look, this is how it works. You’re going to die one day. I know that’s kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you’d forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked. There is a subtle art to not giving a fuck. And though the concept may sound ridiculous and I may sound like an asshole, what I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively—how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values. This is incredibly difficult. It takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. But it is perhaps the most worthy struggle one can undertake in one’s life. It is perhaps the only struggle in one’s life. Because when you give too many fucks—when you give a fuck about everyone and everything—you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times, that everything is supposed to be just exactly the fucking way you want it to be. This is a sickness. And it will eat you alive. You will see every adversity as an injustice, every challenge as a failure, every inconvenience as a personal slight, every disagreement as a betrayal. You will be confined to your own petty, skull-sized hell, burning with entitlement and bluster, running circles around your very own personal Feedback Loop from Hell, in constant motion yet arriving nowhere. He later says,Let’s be clear. There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are indifferent are lame and scared. They’re couch potatoes and Internet trolls. In fact, indifferent people often attempt to be indifferent because in reality they give way too many fucks. They give a fuck about what everyone thinks of their hair, so they never bother washing or combing it. They give a fuck about what everyone thinks of their ideas, so they hide behind sarcasm and self-righteous snark. They’re afraid to let anyone get close to them, so they imagine themselves as some special, unique snowflake who has problems that nobody else would ever understand. Indifferent people are afraid of the world and the repercussions of their own choices. That’s why they don’t make any meaningful choices. They hide in a gray, emotionless pit of their own making, self-absorbed and self-pitying, perpetually distracting themselves from this unfortunate thing demanding their time and energy called life.


2. Believe it or not, we derive a lot of happiness from solving meaningful problems or problems that align with our purpose. Dr.Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, author of the book Flow, states the same thing about how we derive happiness, when we’re in a state of “flow.” Humans are innately born scientists because that’s what makes us happy; we’re curious, we test, and we construct/produce over and over. Just think about your childhood or take a look at children and how they act. Give children some Lego and they’ll naturally want to build something out of it. They’ll then take the same pieces to make something else as they’re in a state of “flow.” Problems are a constant in life. When you solve your health problem by buying a gym membership, you create new problems, like having to get up early to get to the gym on time, sweating like a meth-head for thirty minutes on an elliptical, and then getting showered and changed for work so you don’t stink up the whole office. When you solve your problem of not spending enough time with your partner by designating Wednesday night ‘date night,’ you generate new problems, such as figuring out what to do every Wednesday that you both won’t hate, making sure you have enough money for nice dinners, rediscovering the chemistry and spark you two feel you’ve lost, and unraveling the logistics of fucking in a small bathtub filled with too many bubbles. Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is ‘solving.’ If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.


3. Have strong values or a purpose and stick to them/it. Be yourself and believe in what you believe and don’t let others tell you or influence your decision on what to believe in. Formulate your own thoughts as opposed to being told what or how to think. Again, this goes back to the subtle art of not giving a f*ck. Hiroo Onoda’s highest value was complete loyalty and service to the Japanese empire. This value, in case you couldn’t tell from reading about him, stank worse than a rotten sushi roll. It created really shitty problems for Hiroo—namely, he got stuck on a remote island where he lived off bugs and worms for thirty years. Oh, and he felt compelled to murder innocent civilians too. So despite the fact that Hiroo saw himself as a success, and despite the fact he lived up to his metrics, I think we can all agree that his life really sucked—none of us would trade shoes with him given the opportunity, nor would we commend his actions. Dave Mustaine achieved great fame and glory and felt like a failure anyway. This is because he’d adopted a crappy value based on some arbitrary comparison to the success of others. This value gave him awful problems such as, ‘I need to sell 150 million more records; then everything will be great,’ and ‘My next tour needs to be nothing but stadiums’—problems he thought he needed to solve in order to be happy. It’s no surprise that he wasn’t. On the contrary, Pete Best pulled a switcheroo. Despite being depressed and distraught by getting kicked out of the Beatles, as he grew older he learned to reprioritize what he cared about and was able to measure his life in a new light. Because of this, Best grew into a happy and healthy old man, with an easy life and great family—things that, ironically, the four Beatles would spend decades struggling to achieve or maintain. When we have poor values—that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others—we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse. But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our fucks to something better—toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects. This, in a nutshell, is what ‘self-improvement’ is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.


4. You’re, for the most part, ultimately responsible for your life; it’s no one else’s responsibility to ensure that you have a good life. This is not to be confused with the idea that everything that happens to you is your fault. Acknowledge that you have full capability to perceive events the way that you want as that’s the only thing no one can take away from you. In the book Man’s Search For Meaning written by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, he states that we have the freedom to perceive the events that happen to us in any way we choose to. There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be. Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing to not respond to the events in our lives is still a response to the events in our lives. Even if you get run over by a clown car and pissed on by a busload of schoolchildren, it’s still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and choose a response. Whether we like it or not, we are always taking an active role in what’s occurring to and within us. We are always interpreting the meaning of every moment and every occurrence. We are always choosing the values by which we live and the metrics by which we measure everything that happens to us. Often the same event can be good or bad, depending on the metric we choose to use. The point is, we are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not. Always.


5. We’re always dealt a hand of “cards” in life. Whether they’re a good or bad set of “card” is irrelevant. What is relevant though is how we play those cards. Just as is the case with poker, there’s an element of luck to life. However, luck only plays a small portion in outcomes. The real determining factor behind one’s success is how he/she plays the cards that have been dealt. Back in college, I had a bit of a delusional fantasy of becoming a professional poker player. I won money and everything, and it was fun, but after almost a year of serious play, I quit. The lifestyle of staying up all night staring at a computer screen, winning thousands of dollars one day and then losing most of it the next, wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t exactly the most healthy or emotionally stable means of earning a living. But my time playing poker had a surprisingly profound influence on the way I see life. The beauty of poker is that while luck is always involved, luck doesn’t dictate the long-term results of the game. A person can get dealt terrible cards and beat someone who was dealt great cards. Sure, the person who gets dealt great cards has a higher likelihood of winning the hand, but ultimately the winner is determined by—yup, you guessed it—the choices each player makes throughout play. I see life in the same terms. We all get dealt cards. Some of us get better cards than others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on our cards, and feel we got screwed over, the real game lies in the choices we make with those cards, the risks we decide to take, and the consequences we choose to live with. People who consistently make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life. And it’s not necessarily the people with the best cards. There are those who suffer psychologically and emotionally from neurological and/or genetic deficiencies. But this changes nothing. Sure, they inherited a bad hand and are not to blame. No more than the short guy wanting to get a date is to blame for being short. Or the person who got robbed is to blame for being robbed. But it’s still their responsibility. Whether they choose to seek psychiatric treatment, undergo therapy, or do nothing, the choice is ultimately theirs to make. There are those who suffer through bad childhoods. There are those who are abused and violated and screwed over, physically, emotionally, financially. They are not to blame for their problems and their hindrances, but they are still responsible—always responsible—to move on despite their problems and to make the best choices they can, given their circumstances.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


Thank you for reading! Please share this post with someone who you think will benefit from it. Also, join my Facebook group here, to receive exclusive content and updates on posts. If you have any book requests or recommendations, I’d love to hear them out so please let me know through an e-mail at


My rating:
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Check out the book here:
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  1. Danei

    I actually have this book on audible and never got around to listen to it. I like this review so much that I’m going to start today. Thanks Ryan. I love how there is a video too. If I’m driving I listen to reviews as well. This is awesome!


    1. Danei, thank you for the comment! I’m here to spread my love of reading with others and hopefully it’ll inspire them to read more positive books!


  2. […] and not so much based on the perceptions others have of you. In other words, it’s “the subtle art of not giving a f*ck” as Mark Manson states bluntly. Ultimately, happiness begins from oneself and then through […]


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